“Keyboarding Classes Bless Many with Music,” Ensign, Oct. 2004, 75–76
While serving a full-time mission with her husband in Brazil, Sister Joan P. Fisher from Salt Lake City spent much of her time preparing simple music for beginning ward and branch choirs. She also distributed keyboards to stakes and districts across Brazil as part of a request from the Area Presidency to help members learn to play hymns. “Music brings the Spirit,” says Sister Fisher. “And my greatest joy has been helping members have more music of better quality.”
Music can set the tone for uplifting spiritual experiences. It can bless the lives of those who perform as well as those who listen. In addition to their other assignments, many senior missionaries like Sister Fisher are using their talents to bless the lives of members as part of the Church’s effort to make the music of the Church accessible to more Latter-day Saints around the world. Using Church-developed materials and a Church-administered grant, these missionaries are teaching music or keyboard classes in units where accompanists are needed or where members need help learning the hymns.
The Church Keyboard Course materials are available at most distribution centers in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Tahitian. Mission presidents and area priesthood leaders can also obtain the materials through the Church’s Music and Cultural Arts Division for wide-scale efforts in which members or missionaries are involved in teaching others.
In Wales, Elder LeRoy and Sister Rosan Nichols from California were assigned to the Newtown Branch, Newcastle-Under-Lyme England Stake. Because the small branch had limited resources, Sister Nichols agreed to play the keyboard each week, but she realized that she would not be in the branch forever. When branch leaders learned about the Church Keyboard Course, Samantha Hughes, a 14-year-old studying music in school, volunteered to take lessons from Sister Nichols and practice 20 minutes a day. Already she is able to play prelude music in sacrament meeting.
Dedicated students like Samantha who are committed to playing in Church meetings and who are willing to teach others can qualify for assistance in their studies from the Church. Where possible, keyboards can be obtained for members learning to play for Church meetings so they can continue practicing at home and eventually help teach others.
Elder Bert and Sister Lorna Pack from Provo, Utah, are currently teaching keyboard lessons to 52 students in seven branches in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission. They note that while many people enthusiastically begin the keyboard course they provide, few continue beyond three to six lessons because of the time and commitment it takes to learn.
When George Mholo began taking the course, the 14-year-old didn’t impress them as being any different from most of the others. To their surprise, George worked hard. He faithfully attended lessons and practiced four hours a week on the keyboards at the church and up to two hours per day at home on his “silent keyboard”—a cardboard keyboard that comes with the course. Before long, George was playing with both hands, and the Packs felt like he was qualified to borrow one of the Church-owned keyboards to practice on at home.
George and his 11-year-old brother, Kenny, were the only members of the Church in their family and had been baptized less than two years before. When the sister missionaries delivered the keyboard to George’s home, they met with his mother. After taking the missionary discussions for several weeks, she was baptized. George spoke at her baptism and played a piano solo, “Families Can Be Together Forever.”
While the music classes may not have such a dramatic effect on all of their students, the Packs estimate that by the end of their mission, each of the seven branches in the area where they are serving will have two to seven accompanists who will be able to play hymns from Hymns Made Easy for sacrament meetings and other occasions.